As a reader, do you skim? Why?

Authors, newbies in particular, are repeatedly cautioned about certain basic writing requirements:

Write tight.  Trim the fat.  Cut word count.  Eliminate unnecessary words.
Does it advance the story?

As a reader, I find I’m prone to skim. For me, it’s the invasion of dirty words into our literary culture. Oh, and gratuitous sex.

couple-love-people-romanticDon’t get me wrong. I like a sexy romance as much as the next person, but it’s enough to leave the action at the door. I know the mechanics of the act. My imagination works fine, thank you very much. I don’t need step-by-step instruction.

So, let’s apply the list from above to the prolific sex scenes romping through our books today:

Write tight. fail  Trim the fat. fail  Cut word count. fail  Eliminate unnecessary words. fail
Does it advance the story? double fail

Now, let’s talk about profanity. Um, er, uh … Wow. Just wow.

ProfanityFour-letter bombs and worse fill almost every page these days. I get that language can aid in establishing a character’s quirks and personality, but please. A little moderation would go a long way. 

So, once again, let’s apply the test:

Write tight. fail  Trim the fat. fail  Cut word count. fail  Eliminate unnecessary words. fail
Does it advance the story? triple fail

Exclamation markIt is commonly understood in the writing world that an exclamation mark is a lazy writer’s shortcut. A good writer relies on words to convey the excitement of the scene, the fear, happiness, anger, etc. – not punctuation.

This same concept can be applied to the overuse of gratuitous sex scenes and abundant profanity. True skill is hidden by these “unnecessary words,” and like me, your reader may not  be able to get past them to finish the book.

Data rules.

With the ease of self-publishing today, not all authors bother with the basics, opting for quantity over quality. Sales are up, but profits are down because the content has been cheapened and purchase prices degraded.

eReadersBeware. Digital readers tell the tale.

According to emerging statistics, readers finish less than 50% of eBooks purchased in certain genres. There’s even talk of online retailers creating a new category for “eBooks Actually Finished.”

My advice? Let’s get back to the basics. Perfect the art of good writing. The author’s self-esteem will soar, and readers will thank you.

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